Best of 2013 – Gigs Top5

I promised I’d post a bit about last year’s gigs and give you my Top5 from 2013. Well, I’ve thought about it rather long and hard, but finally was able to make a list of sorts.

First, some stats.

All in all I saw about 40+ different gigs, by at least 32 different bands. I didn’t go to that many festivals this past year, which is why the number of gigs & bands is a bit smaller than expected. I saw two bands more than twice, but most bands only once. I’m hoping to see at least as many gigs in 2014, one way or another.

And then for the Top5. Let’s do it the countdown way, from 5 to 1.

5. The Blanko – Virgin Oil, Helsinki on Aug 23rd

This gig was the album release party for The Blanko’s second album, Into The Silence. The Blanko is one of my favourite bands at the moment, a true hidden gem in the Finnish rock scene. I’m hoping they won’t stay hidden for much longer, they’d deserve to be “found” by a lot of people.

Pauli (guitar, vocals), Eicca (cello, featuring artist) and Jakke (drums) rockin' it. The bassist (at the time) Marko didn't fit into the shot...

Pauli (guitar, vocals), Eicca (cello, featuring artist) and Jakke (drums) rockin’ it. The bassist (at the time) Marko didn’t fit into the shot…

Pauli is a fantastic guitarist and his performances are a joy to watch & listen.

Pauli is a fantastic guitarist and his performances are a joy to watch & listen.

I was there covering the gig for Stalker.cd, the online rock mag I occasionally write & shoot for. I had interviewed the vocalist & guitarist & songwriter Pauli Hauta-aho, who is a really nice guy btw, via email just before the gig and was really looking forward to hearing the new album live. I had, naturally, been listening to the review copy of it for a few weeks already. It was sounding staggeringly good.  The gig was nothing short of excellent – the band even had Eicca Toppinen (of Apocalyptica) visit the stage, as he features in one of the songs on the album.

I had a great time on the gig, as I did on all the gigs of The Blanko I saw in 2013. This is one of the bands I saw several times. Three times, to be exact. But out of those three performances this was the best. A new album full of new material, performed for the first time (for the most part) – there’s just something special about gigs like this.

4. The Magnificent – Firefest X, Nottingham, UK, on Oct 18th

I guess I don’t need to say much about this gig, as I already posted a whole separate post about it after my UK Tour. But in case you missed it, The Magnificent is a band where a few friends of mine play. They got the honour of opening the Firefest X in Rock City, Nottingham. I combined the festival with a visit to London and Cardiff and had the best of times.

My friend Sami is the bassist of The Magnificent. His green bass is called "The Riddler".

My friend Sami is the bassist of The Magnificent. His green bass is called “The Riddler”.

The gig deserves its place in my Top5 for many reasons. It was fun, full of positive energy and quite possibly the only live performance ever from them. (I’m still hoping it isn’t so!) I got to shoot the whole gig through and I must’ve looked like an idiot in the photo pit, smiling widely through the whole 30+ minute set. There aren’t many gigs that give me such a high, but since this did, it’s on the list.

3. Royal Republic – Klubi, Turku on Dec 12th

This Swedish band is a hoot. The first time I heard their song “Full Steam Spacemachine” I was sniggering to myself thanks to the saucy lyrics. Ever since I’ve wanted to see them live on stage, because their music is just brilliant party stuff. Ridiculously energetic, saucy like heck and well, just a whole lot of fun. If you like Danko Jones, you might like the Royal guys, too.

When a friend of mine told me they were coming to town (I hadn’t noticed it yet myself), I immediately went and got a ticket. And boy, was it worth it. Rarely do I laugh so much on gigs, but this – oh my. The singer Adam is a gorgeous (ahem) and hilarious rocker with such a stage presence it was just incredible. He had the audience wrapped around his, heh, little finger in no time. He teased, he mocked, he joked – and we loved it.

I didn't take that many pics on this gig, as I wasn't working. This was purely for my own entertainment. But you know, I can't resist in any case.

I didn’t take that many pics on this gig, as I wasn’t working. This was purely for my own entertainment. But you know, I can’t resist in any case.

In the rock scene there are too many bands that take life too seriously. The Royal Republic guys don’t. You don’t have to worry about the quality of the music, though. They take that very seriously, but once they’re in front of an audience, they are a riot. I would see them again in a heartbeat, because they were one of the absolute highlights of my rock year.

2. Von Hertzen Brothers – Cardiff Globe, Cardiff, UK, on Oct 20th

These brothers play my soul’s music and I just love them. I saw them six times this past year, and since the last gig was the New Year’s Eve gig, I can say I both finished 2013 and started 2014 with them. I can’t get enough of their live performances.

Jonne, Mikko and Kie Von Hertzen in Cardiff Globe.

Jonne, Mikko and Kie Von Hertzen in Cardiff Globe.

Out of all their performances I saw this year I will choose the Cardiff one for this list. Not because it was any better or worse than the other stellar performances I saw this year, but because I was in Cardiff! And because I got to talk to all the brothers after the gig, as it was a small venue and I was one of the very few Finns there. I loved every single second of the set and since the Globe wasn’t much of a photo friendly place (awful lighting, just awful), I snapped perhaps 15 frames (mostly utter crap) and concentrated on partying. A guy next to me commented after the gig, laughing, that he had felt such good vibes from both the stage and from me. Heh. Well, that’s me. I’m just so utterly happy on those gigs.

1. Muse – Olympic Stadium, Helsinki on July 27th

THE gig experience of the year, hands down. I am a fan of Muse but had never managed to get tickets to one of their concerts in Finland. They usually always sold out before I realized I should perhaps buy a ticket. But not so this time.

I bought tickets to myself and my brother, as a Christmas present. I would get to see a great gig and spend some quality sibling time. Win all around.

I haven’t seen that many world class / stadium filling bands (Iron Maiden is perhaps the biggest name I’ve seen performing in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki), but as far as huge gigs go, this was incredible. I was totally in awe of the whole set up, with the hundreds of screens and whatnot. Oh, and the huge hot air balloon lightbulb! That was spectacular.

The concert was mind-blowing. There’s just something about a huge stage, massive light displays and a roaring audience. Not something one comes across too often when going to small venue gigs… Heh.

This is the best I could do with my old camera. The pyrotechnics in the lovely, light & warm July night...

This is the best I could do with my old camera. The pyrotechnics in the lovely, light & warm July night…

I wasn’t allowed to bring a DSLR to the stadium, understandably, so I resorted to my old Canon Powershot. I had totally forgotten how to get the most out of it and the results were super crappy, but oh well. I had a brilliant time and it was a perfect Christmas present for me and my brother. He had a good time as well, even though he doesn’t know Muse’s music as well as I do.

So there. Those are my Top 5 gigs of 2013. I’m looking forward to 2014, as at least one of my fave bands, Brother Firetribe, is going to be releasing a new album and touring again, after several years of silence. Strangely enough, only Dream Theater tickets bought for the year so far, though. We’ll see how things go.

Next post will probably still be something of 2013, as I’ve been asked to do a “Crop of 12” post from last year. More about that later. I hope you’re all having a great start to 2014 in the meanwhile.

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